Remembering Harper Lee: Author, Inspiration, Law School Dropout

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on February 19, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It's been a rough week for lovers of the law. First, Justice Antonin Scalia dies, depriving the world of one of its most prominent legal voices. Then, today, Harper Lee passes away. She may not have been a Supreme Court justice, but the Pulitzer Prize winning author may have had just as big of an influence on many lawyers' lives, with her depiction of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mocking Bird launching a thousand legal careers.

In memory of Harper Lee, here is some of FindLaw's best coverage of her as a lauded author, legal inspiration, occasional litigant, and, of course, law school dropout.

Atticus Finch, Both Versions

1. 25 Greatest Fictional Lawyers: Want to know just how great Atticus Finch is? Check out this list, which Atticus had to be excluded from, so as to not overshadow the rest of the world's fictional lawyers.

2. 5 Movies That Make Lawyers Look Great: If Harper Lee's words didn't convince you to be inspired by Atticus Finch, Gregory Peck's amazing portrayal of Atticus in the film version of To Kill a Mockingbird definitely should. There's a reason the movie tops this list.

3. Harper Lee's New Novel Shows a Darker, Racist Atticus Finch: And then there's the most recent Atticus. Last summer, Harper Lee released the first version of her novel on Scout, Atticus, and Maycomb, Alabama, and let's just say the lawyers are much less impressive in this telling.

Harper Lee, Litigant

4. Harper Lee Settles 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Lawsuit Over Royalties: Harper Lee was never afraid to wield the power of the law when she needed to. Indeed, one of her best friends late in her life was her lawyer, Tonja B. Carter. And it was Carter who helped Lee sue the son of her former agent, Samuel L. Pinkus, in 2013, in a dispute over royalties that eventually settled.

5. 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author Harper Lee Sues Ala. Museum in War of Words: To Kill a Mockingbird was so successful that it continues to inspire tourism to rural Alabama. One Alabama museum attempted to capitalize on that popularity, in part by using the website and selling Mockingbird memorabilia, leading to Lee's royalty suit.

6. Harper Lee, Ala. Museum Settle 'Mockingbird' Infringement Suit: That suit, like the one against her publicist's son, never made it to trial, resulting in a private settlement in 2014.

Harper Lee, Almost-Lawyer

7. 11 Celebrities Who Didn't Make It Through Law School: Harper Lee attended the Alabama School of Law, but never graduated -- though her lack of a J.D. doesn't seem to have impeded her success. As a law school dropout, Lee is in good company; her peers include fellow author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, tap dancing super star Gene Kelly, and Supreme Court justice Benjamin Cardozo.

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